Michael H. Steinhardt, the billionaire hedge fund pioneer and certainly one of New York’s most prolific antiquities collectors, has surrendered 180 stolen objects valued at $70 million and been barred for all times from buying some other relics, the Manhattan district lawyer’s workplace mentioned in a press release Monday.
The prosecutor’s workplace struck an settlement with Mr. Steinhardt after a four-year multinational investigation that decided that the seized items had been looted and smuggled from 11 international locations, trafficked by 12 illicit networks and appeared on the worldwide artwork market with out lawful paperwork, the workplace mentioned.
“For many years, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious urge for food for plundered artifacts with out concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the items he purchased and offered, or the grievous cultural injury he wrought throughout the globe,” District Lawyer Cyrus Vance Jr. mentioned, including: “This settlement establishes that Steinhardt shall be topic to an unprecedented lifetime ban on buying antiquities.”
Mr. Steinhardt, a Brooklyn native who turns 81 on Tuesday, is a significant contributor to New York College and to quite a few Jewish philanthropies. There’s a Steinhardt conservatory on the Brooklyn Botanic Backyard and a Steinhardt Gallery on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork.
In a press release on Monday, his lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, mentioned: “Mr. Steinhardt is happy that the District Lawyer’s yearslong investigation has concluded with none fees, and that objects wrongfully taken by others shall be returned to their native international locations. Most of the sellers from whom Mr. Steinhardt purchased this stuff made particular representations as to the sellers’ lawful title to the objects, and to their alleged provenance. To the extent these representations have been false, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to hunt recompense from the sellers concerned.”
In response to prosecutors, 171 of the 180 seized antiquities first surfaced within the possession of accused antiquities traffickers, together with two who’ve been convicted in Italy — Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Becchina. They mentioned the investigation revealed that 101 of the objects, all coated in dust and encrustations, have been seen and identifiable in pictures discovered within the possession of identified traffickers.
Christos Tsirogiannis, an affiliate professor on the College of Aarhus Institute of Superior Research in Denmark, who makes a speciality of looking photographic archives seized from antiquities sellers, mentioned traffickers use such images to promote their looted wares to small teams of rich collectors. Dr. Tsirogiannis is certainly one of about 60 researchers, investigators and overseas legislation enforcement officers credited by the prosecutors’ workplace with helping within the case.
As a part of its inquiry, Mr. Vance’s workplace mentioned, prosecutors executed 17 search warrants and labored with officers in 11 international locations — Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey.
In explaining the settlement to not prosecute as long as Mr. Steinhardt abides by all its phrases, Mr. Vance mentioned the association would enable for the objects to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful homeowners” slightly than being held as proof. It could additionally assist his workplace to “protect the id of the numerous witnesses right here and overseas whose names can be launched at any trial.”
Nonetheless, the case and different current seizures show that the workplace’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit is able to attain far again in time to confiscate objects primarily based on a New York state statute that permits prosecutors to return stolen property to its “rightful homeowners” no matter when a theft may need occurred.
Mr. Steinhardt’s dealings with prosecutors over suspect antiquities date again to the Nineteen Nineties. In 1997, a federal choose dominated that Mr. Steinhardt had illegally imported a golden bowl, generally known as a phiale, from Italy in 1992. The thing, relationship to 450 B.C. and costing $1 million, was seized from Mr. Steinhardt’s residence in 1995. The choose rejected his competition on the time that he was an “harmless proprietor” with no data of irregularities.
In 2018, investigators raided his workplace and Fifth Avenue residence and took away a number of historic works they mentioned had been looted from Greece and Italy. That seizure got here on the heels of a 2017 seizure of a marble statue stolen from a temple in Sidon, Lebanon, which Mr. Steinhardt relinquished and which has been returned.
The 2017 seizure led to the formation of the trafficking unit, which pressed the case that was resolved on Monday. Officers mentioned the unit has recovered greater than 3,000 objects valued at $200 million, and that a minimum of 1,500 have been returned to their homeowners and international locations of origin. It mentioned lots of are able to be repatriated “as quickly because the related international locations are capable of obtain them amid the pandemic,” and greater than 1,000 objects are being held awaiting the result of legal proceedings.
(Individually, in March 2019, Mr. Steinhardt was accused of a sample of sexual harassment by a number of girls who labored for the nonprofits he supported.)
The confiscated objects, which adorned Mr. Steinhardt’s houses and places of work, and which he usually lent to main museums, got here principally from Italy, Greece and Israel, in response to a listing compiled by investigators.